During that same period, Puzzle Pirates, a game not featuring cutting-edge graphics, ridiculous polygon counts nor even a single television ad, completely escaped my notice. It was only after hearing about it from a friend that it came to my attention.

I try to be an "informed" game shopper. I try not to base my decisions on hype and focus on matters that are important to me. I even try and read reviews of games. But the problem for me is that even after spending years reading gaming magazines and websites, I still don't have any sort of connection with their reviewers. Numbers, stars, percentages - none of those really stick with me. Word of mouth sticks with me. If I hear a bunch of my friends saying good things about a game that's a game I'm likely to pick up. But by the time I start hearing good things about it, I'm usually so far behind everyone else playing it that I'm stuck being the perpetual newbie.

Instead of heeding solid information, I get excited about the ads instead of the game. Is Hitman: Blood Money a great game? I have absolutely no idea, but it was only because it won't run on my antiquated gaming system that I was able to resist the amazing (albeit controversial) advertisement campaign. Even then, it was a close call. I had it in my hand and stood in the store for a good 20 minutes debating the matter - because someday I'm going to upgrade. Wouldn't I feel stupid then if every copy of the game had disappeared and I wasn't able to find it?

I am learning, though. Not consistently, but I've had some occasions where I demonstrated common sense, patience and a bit of immunity to hype. This month, I bought a game, but I waited until I read thorough reviews that talked about the gameplay to ensure it was something I'd like. I read threads on message boards that had nothing to do with hype, but only addressed whether the game was stable and easy to get installed and running. I refused to pay any heed to advertisements and instead focused on cold, hard facts. After careful consideration, I made this informed purchase, and proudly presented it to my friends.

"What? Dude, none of us play StarCraft anymore!"

Sigh.

Shawn "Kwip" Williams is the founder of N3 (NeenerNeener.Net), where he toils away documenting his adventures as the worst MMOG and pen-and-paper RPG player in recorded history.

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